(This article first appeared in the November 15, 2017 issue of The Independent Newspaper)
It’s a Thursday night in Sag Harbor and the scent of crisp air and cozy fireplace smoke blankets me — an emblematic combination for fall. Neighborhood fireplaces aren’t the source of the delicious fragrance; it’s the wood-fired oven at Lulu Kitchen & Bar. Since opening in April to a nonstop rush, Lulu’s well underway for the off-season month. The relatively packed room was a sign of good things to come.
“It exceeds expectations. We’re having a very strong off-season so far,” said managing director Steven Jauffrineau. Executive chef Philippe Corbet, native to the French Alps, brings with him training and experience from Michelin-star restaurants.
The front of the restaurant greets with floor to ceiling glass patio doors, opened during the warmer months, flowing to a wall of lofty mirrors and a zinc bar adjacent to the semi open kitchen. Step farther back to the curved tufted banquettes and darkened walls — an ideal place to sit with families, large groups, or that special date night.
Toward the back are bleached brick walls and dim lighting, with live music by local cultural sensation Alfredo Merat — a great way to spend time socializing or for a girls’ night. Since I arrived with my friend Sara, we opted for a livelier experience amid the music.
Décor aside, it’s time to eat. Immediately we were greeted with two “Shades of Autumn” cocktails. The Holly Goose, for those who enjoy the taste of a Cosmo, and the Summer’s End, a twist on a classic Manhattan. As we sipped, we savored wood-grilled flatbread and hummus, topped with seasonal espelette peppers and pumpkin seeds. The hummus surprised with a new flavor in every dip, and I would be remiss had I not eaten every last chickpea of it.
As Merat effortlessly transitioned from English to French to Spanish, our appetizers arrived. Escargot soup (made with local Peconic Escargot snails) offered a creamy, coconut milk base as the tiny escargots burst in my mouth. The richness in flavor almost had me picking up the plate to sip every last drop — almost. For those like Sara who choose to pass on gastropods, the Iacono Farm poached egg and duck confit with parmesan cheese emulsion has a unique texture on the tongue. The roasted figs added a new sensation of flavoring while creamy polenta blended seamlessly with the easy-to-tear duck.
Before moving onto the main courses, two Autumn Thymes arrived. I’m a good, ol’ Old Fashioned girl but the slant with Aperol, grapefruit juice, and thyme made it my official go-to drink at this restaurant.
Thursday night’s special was Lobster Thermidor served on a skillet — lobster with a creamy mix of egg yolks, oven-browned cheese, a hint of mustard, and more. Corbet showcases his French talent in the making of this sauce. (I recall saying aloud, “I want to swim in this sauce.”) For two women splitting it, after some rather heavier starters, it was exemplary in both taste and portion size. For those with a heavier appetite, I advise ordering additional sides or a heftier entrée.
The chimichurri sauce on top of the 10-ounce skirt steak was just the right amount of garlic, vinegar, and oil. The steak comes with some house fries that are worth noting to request as part of any dish.
“I want people to feel like home, very comfortable,” relayed Corbet, who wants others to have the sensation as he did growing up in a French kitchen. “A slow cooking meal on a Sunday, that was the best meal I had.”
Lastly, the dessert. Coffee aficionados, like myself, should indulge in the espresso and hazelnut daquoise — moist yet crumbly at the same time. The real wow factor is the raspberry Eton mess with yuzu chantilly, white chocolate mousse, a macaroon cookie, crème fraiche ice cream, and fresh berries. If you don’t have time to enjoy a full meal stop in for this dessert alone.
Lulu Kitchen & Bar is located at 126 Main Street in Sag Harbor. Call them at 631-725-0900 or visit http://www.lululsagharbor.com.